Sleeping on the Job: Are Employee Naps the Next Big Benefit?

Gene Marks

Taking a nap in the middle of the day seems like a delicious idea. But that’s a little crazy to consider for your staff, isn’t it? You can’t just let your employees nod off for an hour when there’s so much work to be done, right? After employee naps, what’s next:

Milk and cookies in the afternoon?

Story time?

Little lockers to store their blankets?

Nap time sounds like a benefit that can only be offered by big companies. And it certainly is being offered, according to this report from The Guardian.

Google, for example, has installed high tech “sleep pods” that look like hibernation chambers and come with built-in sound systems that can play relaxing music while an employee naps. At Nike’s Portland, Oregon, headquarters there are separate rooms for employees to sleep or meditate and flexible hours to accommodate them. Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s has had a nap room on its premises for over a decade. Procter & Gamble takes things one step further: special lighting to help regulate melatonin, the sleep hormone, as part of a wider employee appreciation program.

Businesses — big and small — around the world are recognizing that, when it comes to employees, there are morning types and evening types and that’s totally cool — so long as the work gets done. As Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist and author of Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams told The Guardian, “Companies are starting to understand that it’s nobody’s fault — it’s genetic.”

Walker believes that the world is caught in a “global sleep-loss epidemic” because of our stressful lives, longer commuting times, and demanding schedules. He warns that the lack of sleep we’re getting is having a serious impact on our health — and productivity. Sleep loss, by his account, costs most developed nations as much as 2% of their gross domestic product a year.

For most small businesses, it’s kind of tough to consider letting employees break away for a nap. But isn’t this attitude hurting more than helping? Maybe we should change? There are some pretty good reasons to consider.

For example, allowing employee naps is certainly an easy — and affordable — benefit to offer. No one says you have to purchase an expensive “sleep pod” like Google’s. But creating a quiet space somewhere in your office or break room is easily enough done.

Allowing an employee to put his head down on his desk for a short period shouldn’t be discouraged. I sometimes take little cat naps during the day with my door closed. President Ronald Reagan was famous for his naps.

Today’s employee wants more flexibility and independence. If she is able to get the job done — even after a short nap — why not let her? Sure, the policy could be abused. But your evaluations should be based on the accomplishment of goals, not necessarily how or when the tasks get done. Besides — in this tight labor environment, isn’t offering a flexible “nap time” an easy and affordable benefit to entice a younger employee?

“Sleep has an image problem,” Walker says. “In this modern day and age we have not only abandoned a full night’s sleep, we don’t celebrate it anymore,” he says. “We have to return to this mentality that sleep is OK.”

Now shush … just let me close my eyes for a little while, OK?

Tell Us: Would you let your employees take naps if it increased their productivity?

5 Responses to "Sleeping on the Job: Are Employee Naps the Next Big Benefit?"

    • Jan Pell | March 28, 2018 at 11:17 am

      I believe employees appreciate an employer that ‘CARES’ about employees as well as their productivity. I have experience where employees repay the kindness many times over.

    • Michelle Ritter | March 28, 2018 at 11:20 am

      I take a nap in the backseat of my car at least 3 days a week….I set my alarm, put up window shades, turn on classical music and even have a pillow & blanket….
      I LOVE MY NAPS 🙂

    • Roger | March 28, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      At age 74 and almost 50 years in this insurance business, I am very familiar with the benefits of a 15 or 20 minute nap in the middle of the afternoon. The degree to which the human body can re-charge in such a short period of time is amazing. However, I suspect that most employers balk at allowing employees to take naps simply because of the lack of a universal definition of the word. Will some employees need 15 minutes while another may want 30 minutes? You might need a separate employee whose only job is to monitor nap time and make sure that it is equitably applied.

    • Marie Hertel | March 28, 2018 at 1:09 pm

      I formerly worked at a company that had a recliner in our break room (this was over 20 years ago) and an employee could take a quick nap on their lunch hour. At other employers, I would go to my car during lunch and take a nap. It certainly helped me rejuvenate. Just having a restful place away from one’s desk, even if only allowed during lunch hours, would be welcome!!! Especially since most companies nowadays do not offer “9-5 shifts” anymore. It seems we work earlier and stay later as well.

    • Sumeto | March 28, 2018 at 1:51 pm

      With respect to “Besides — in this tight labor environment, isn’t offering a flexible “nap time” an easy and affordable benefit to entice a younger employee?”
      Do you not think that an older employee would not be enticed??? Older employees bring a lot to the table.

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